It was a very exciting day for the USA in Poland on Sunday. Neely Spence Gracey led the US women to a fourth place finish at the World XC championships. Neely ran masterfully over the technical and challenging course and finished thirteenth place, and in the process earned herself an automatic ‘A’ standard for the 10k world championships.
Neely graciously answered a couple of questions that I sent her way after the race:
Was this the most challenging course you’ve ever run? What made it so? Was it the course itself, the conditions, or the combination of the two?
It was true cross country. Europe loves their challenging courses, and this one met every expectation a true XC fan or athlete could imagine. I think they combined a tough mudder, cyclocross, horse jumping, and skiing all in one big test of athleticism (Not to mention the best athletes in the world…).
What was your strategy?
My goal going in was to maximize myself. Use my strengths and rely on my intuition to get me through every step. I had a goal for each lap: 1-Get out, 2-Establish, 3-Battle, 4-Finish.
Do you view this as a break-through race?
My coaches had higher expectations for me going into the race than I had for myself. Very few races do we finish knowing that everything was executed perfectly and the results surpass the initial goal. So I am enjoying this rare sense of satisfaction… for a few days, then it is back to the grind to make more dreams reality!
This race certainly gave me greater recognition on the world scene, but that wasn’t the goal. The goal was and is to continue the journey of exploring my capabilities as an athlete and person. This was a good-sized step in the right direction ?
It was an incredible day for Team USA. First the women get fourth, then the men come through with the silver medal. What was the mood like, when the dust (er, mud) settled after the all the races?
It was really special to be a part of the success Team USA had, but even more special to share it with a great group of people. Cross country is unique in that the teams are much more cohesive, and on the pro scene there are few opportunities to experience this. I am very grateful that I could be a part of this group and learn and grow from the knowledge of others.
Congrats on getting the automatic A standard, too. Does attaining that now change your race plans at all? Would you race less now, and sort of save your ammo for the big meets? Or will it allow you to cherry pick your schedule a bit?
Actually, it fuels my fire to WANT to run the 10k. I see my goal of a mid 31 10k as reality for this season, but definitely plan on running and getting the mark… I want to actually earn it through a time that shows. The plan is to race 5k at MT SAC and 10k at Peyton Jordan! It is a nice thing to have earned that elite status though, but the time standard is just as much a goal as ever!
Good luck to Neely as she shifts her focus over to the track. It’s going to be exciting to watch. For more on this race, you can find a recap of it by her teammate Danielle Brenon here. You might also want to consider following Neely on Facebook and Twitter as she’s very good at engaging her audience. She just recently gave away her bib from this race to the follower who correctly guessed how long it took her to get from the hotel back to her home. The correct answer: 22 hrs, 24 mins. I did not win.
Thanks to Michael Scott for the amazing pictures. Find more of his great work here on his Shutterfly page.